I recently read an article in Psychology Today concerning how to tell whether you’re with the right mate. It included some interesting observations:
- We alone are responsible for having the relationship we want.
- When we’re in love, everything about the other person is wonderful.
- When “reality rears its head” and we discover inevitable incompatibilities, we can only see the differences we have.
- When we start seeing these differences, we tend to see them through the lens of what’s wrong with the other person, and what they need to change.
- Then, our inability to get along with the other person (who we used to think walked on water) becomes their fault – and we can’t do anything about that.
These insights about intimate relationships got me thinking about the expectations we have for our relationships with people we hire. When we start a job, it’s pretty common to feel very positive and hopeful about the people with whom we’re going to be working. That’s even more the case if we’re the supervisor hiring that new person (of course we wouldn’t hire them if they weren’t just the right person!) All sort of like falling in love.
But then, after we’ve worked together for a while, after the new person has worked for us for a while, the truth sets in. They’re not perfect. They’re not the ideal person we thought they would be. Sometimes it’s as if a switch was flipped (another analogy from this article) and now that perfect new employee just can’t do anything right.
- What used to be their great attention to detail is now unbearably boring commentary.
- What used to be their funny stories about past co-workers is now annoying as they become not-so-funny stories about current employees we like.
- What used to be a take-charge attitude we admired now feels like bullying and an attempt to take over.
Our conclusion? We hired the wrong person!
Well, maybe not. To continue applying the analysis from the Psychology Today article, thinking of an employee as right or wrong is using the wrong construct. No employee you hire will ever be the one and only ‘right’ one.
When you discover that that new employee really isn’t so great, refocus. Ask yourself: why am I suddenly unhappy with this person? It’s likely not the case that the employee suddenly changed. Rather, most probably they never were as perfect as you thought them to be and you are now discovering that.
So, what to do? Here are a couple of things to consider:
Remember the positive reasons you hired this person. They’re likely still there. Concentrate on them. Accentuate them.
Address issues that really are matters that bother you only if they are matters of consequence, not just matters of preference. Rely on that attention to detail – just avoid having to listen to too much of it. Enjoy the humor, as long as it’s not destructive. Let go of control so that new employee can have some ownership – it doesn’t all have to be done exactly the way you would have done it. In other words, decide to change yourself – change the way you view that person. You have control over that – use that control to quickly improve your outlook and the situation.
Finally, decide to ignore the small irritations you’ve noticed – you’re likely not perfect either! It’s not worth dwelling on the many things that may irritate you. Support the positive behaviors and, where at all possible, ignore the irritations. Don’t let them get to you. Again, change yourself.
Following these suggestions will make for a much calmer, healthier and happier relationship with your employee – and will improve your non-work relationships as well!
Have you found yourself irritated by someone you once thought was wonderful? How did you handle it? ~Daphne Schneider